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Chronic Pain After Lung Transplantation: A Nationwide Study

Wildgaard, Kim MD* †; Iversen, Martin MD, PhD; Kehlet, Henrik MD, PhD*

doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e3181b705e4
Original Articles

Objectives Little is known about persistent postsurgical pain after lung transplantation with the associated intensive and continuous immunosuppressive treatment. Therefore, we investigated the nationwide incidence of chronic pain after lung transplantations.

Methods Detailed questionnaires were sent to all 110 Danish surviving recipients of lung transplantation from September 2002 to September 2007.

Results Seventy-nine patients fulfilled the inclusion criteria with a mean follow-up time of 39 months. Excluded patients were 1 death during survey, 14 with previous thoracic surgery, and 16 patients who did not respond to an initial mailed questionnaire or a reminder. Fourteen patients (18%) reported persistent pain, whereas only 8 patients (10%) reported pain score >3 (numeric rating scale 0 to 10) and 4 patients (5%) >5 (numeric rating scale 0 to 10). Seventy-one percent of the patients with postsurgical pain also had pain from another part of the body. In patients with persistent postsurgical pain, this was a limiting factor for daily social activities in 29% to 92% dependent on the activity and 54% in pain felt quality of life was compromised due to the pain. Seventy-three percent of persistent postsurgical pain patients (lateral thoracotomy) experienced sensory disturbances compared with 46% of nonpain patients.

Discussion Moderate-to-severe persistent postsurgical pain occurred in 5% to 10% of patients after lung transplantation, which is lower than reported after nontransplant thoracotomy. The specific role of the peritransplant immunosuppression on persistent post-thoracotomy pain should be explored further.

Department of Cardiothoracic Anesthesia

Division of Lung Transplantation, Heart Center

*Section for Surgical Pathophysiology, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Reprints: Kim Wildgaard, MD, Section for Surgical Pathophysiology 4074, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 9, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark (e-mail:

Received for publication February 4, 2009

revised July 7, 2009 accepted July 12, 2009

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.